Vishakha Bhaskkar and Asana Riamei, co-founders of a size-inclusive clothing brand ‘Angrakhaa’, highlight how the fashion industry discriminates against those who do not fit in the conventional size charts.
Today, plus-size models making an appearance at fashion weeks and on social media have been normalised. Yet, the on-ground fashion industry still discriminates against those who don’t fall within the “conventional” body sizes. How? By charging a fat tax — an additional fee that brands charge for ordering a size that is bigger than XL.
Recently, Vishakha Bhaskkar and Asana Riamei, co-founders of a size-inclusive clothing brand called ‘Angrakhaa’, highlighted this issue when they appeared in Shark Tank India Season 2.
In conversation with The Better India, 28-year-old Vishakha, who hails from Delhi, says, “When it comes to plus size, fashion takes a backseat. They [brands] will try to dress you up in whatever little options they have at their disposal to make a sale.”
“The fat tax is pretty prevalent in the country, and there is a differential pricing for the clothes you order. If your size is anywhere between XXS and XL, the clothing is available at a lower price. Whereas for anything beyond XXL, say 5XL, you will be charged extra for the same product,” she adds.
“I noticed that Indian brands charge around 25 percent more from customers who are XXL and above to make the pieces. There was a gap that needed to be filled up,” says 38-year-old Asana, who hails from Manipur.
She continues, “Plus-size people face humiliation and discrimination from their own family members, friends, and acquaintances every day. Even strangers pass comments just because they do not fit into the ‘standard’ size range.”
This inspired the duo to create a brand that caters to different sizes without charging the fat tax. Today, through Angrakhaa, they sell clothes with more than 200 patterns and sizes ranging from XXS to 5XL.
Challenging body shaming
As a college-going student, Vishakha would be fashionably dressed; she frequently experimented with her looks. But she would be constantly reminded of her body weight.
“I’m not a skinny person, I’m midsize, but I used to dress nicely. One day, a friend of mine complimented me that I dress really well for my weight. I thought it was a backhanded compliment. I started writing about plus sizes and midsize fashion on social media. I realised how millions of women across the world would face such remarks,” says Vishakha, who has majored in economics with honours from the University of Delhi.
She never sat for placement exams. At a time when her batchmates were getting jobs with Rs 20 lakh packages, Vishakha felt mediocre as she did not fit in. With no degree in fashion, she worked for a year and a half with designers in Mumbai and in Delhi. That’s how she met Asana.
In 2018, Vishakha started ‘Angrakhaa’, and in a couple of months, she was joined by her senior, Asana, who quit her job after working as a fashion merchandiser for nearly 14 years for a Delhi-based company.
But as a newbie, it was not an easy task for Vishakha to run a company. Apart from facing a financial crunch and struggling to get revenue, she had a tough time setting up the brand.
“Asana comes from a background in merchandising; she was a professional. But for me, it was purely a new experience. I did not have the kind of expertise that is needed for launching a new brand,” she says.
Besides, making a place in the male-dominated industry was a challenge. “You wouldn’t see a lot of women master ji (tailors) and male tailors did not take me seriously. In this industry, men do not like taking orders from women, specifically young women. To get respect and to make my own space has been pretty difficult,” she adds.
Initially, the duo used to manage the entire work all by themselves — from packaging and labelling to delivering orders to courier partners.
“Our sales were not great in the first two years. When things got a bit shaky amid the pandemic, I had my set of self-doubts. Seeing me struggle, my parents, who had been supportive throughout this, asked me to keep a backup. My mom is a lawyer, so she wanted me to study law in the meantime, but I never kept a backup,” recalls Vishakha.
So, instead, she used the COVID-19 first-wave-induced lockdown time to study performance marketing. And then after the second wave, their patience and hard work reaped fruits, and they finally observed the first surge in sales.
Currently, they offer clothes in three categories — summer, occasion wear, and Indian. On average, the clothes are priced at Rs 2,500, Rs 4,500, and Rs 5,000, respectively. So far, they have catered to 15,000 customers across India and abroad. On average, the brand gets 1,000 orders a month. Last financial year, they clocked a revenue of Rs 2 crore.
Journey to regaining confidence
The duo and their brand were featured in Season 2 of Shark Tank India recently. “For the first time, we presented our brand in front of the world. The experience was surreal not just because of the kind of growth we witnessed after the show but also because our brand was admired by all the sharks. We got a lot of confidence that we are not just running a brand for the heck of it, but rather doing great at it! It was a great confidence boost for us,” says Vishaka.
“Within three days of airing the show, we gained a sale of Rs 10 lakh,” she informs.
The duo closed the deal with CarDekho CEO and co-founder Amit Jain, who offered them Rs 40 lakh in exchange for 20 percent equity.
With a vision to make Angrakhaa a one-stop shop, now the duo aims to expand the brand by adding pieces of jewellery this year. They are also introducing a collection of men’s wear.
Once body shamed in college, Vishakha says that she now feels confident and does most of the modelling for Angrakhaa photoshoots. “The brand has helped me create an identity. Launching it was a life-changing journey,” she says.
(Edited by Pranita Bhat; All images courtesy: Angrakhaa)